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Convicted of the 1956 murder of a grocery store clerk and sentenced to death in Stark County, Ohio, Dale Bundy was exonerated in 1958 after the actual perpetrator was identified by a new witness.
Bundy’s entire prosecution rested on the testimony of an alleged accomplice who was admittedly seeking revenge against Bundy for alerting authorities about his involvement in other non-related murders. Three days before his execution date, Bundy was granted a stay and eventually a new trial after a witness with new information came forward. He was acquitted following his second trial.
Dale Bundy, 38, and Russell McCoy, 23, had been good friends since they started working together at the Line Material Company warehouse in Zanesville, Ohio. The men were not working on November 23, 1956. They left in the early afternoon for Canton, where they planned to spend time at local bars and visit Bundy’s family and friends. Later that night, in Uniontown, 30-year-old Reynaldo Amodio and 35-year-old Paul Cain were found shot to death inside the County Line Market grocery store where they worked. It appeared that two guns had been used in the shootings. The assailant or assailants escaped with the contents of the cash register.
On February 9, 1957, while Bundy was working a night shift at the warehouse, McCoy arrived and asked to borrow some money. After Bundy inquired about blood on McCoy’s clothing, McCoy told him that he had just murdered the family with whom he lived—his half-sister, Louise See, and her husband, Lloyd See—and burned their house down. He threatened Bundy with two guns to keep quiet about the matter. Initially, Bundy assumed McCoy was only drunk and not serious, and he told him to go home. But the next morning, Bundy heard that the See house had indeed been burned to the ground. Police found the charred remains of the couple and spent bullet casings from two separate guns. Several holdups in Columbus the previous night were also reported. Victims described the perpetrator as a man wielding two guns and professing to have already murdered four people.
Bundy was hesitant at first, but eventually reported McCoy’s story to the police. Frightened that McCoy would come after him or his family in revenge, he asked police to post a guard at the Bundy residence. A few days later, however, the guard was removed, and the next week McCoy came to the Bundy house. Bundy’s wife, Eloise, convinced McCoy that Bundy was not home. After McCoy left their property, they called the police and alerted them that McCoy was in town, and a few hours later, he turned himself in.
When he was first arrested on February 17, McCoy admitted to killing Lloyd and Louise See, but did not mention the November murders in Uniontown. The next night, however, McCoy told investigators that he and Bundy had committed the murders together while robbing the grocery store, each shooting one of the victims. He also implicated Eloise Bundy, claiming that they hid the money and weapons with her after returning to Zanesville. The next day, the police arrested Bundy and brought in Eloise for questioning. Bundy claimed that he and McCoy had split up that night, but he could not recall exactly where he was at the time of the murders. While no evidence linked Bundy to the crime, a suitcase belonging to McCoy was found in a bus terminal in Amarillo, Texas, containing two guns matching the ones used in the shootings and Columbus holdups.
Bundy was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, but he was only tried for the murder of Amodio. At his trial, which began on June 10, 1957, the state immediately declared its intent to seek the death penalty. The case against Bundy rested on the testimony of McCoy and a 14-year-old girl. McCoy testified that Bundy had suggested the robbery to obtain money for Christmas, so they purchased a second gun for Bundy to supplement the one already owned by McCoy. McCoy told the jury that after his gun went off accidentally in the store, Bundy fired at Amodio, and then, in a panic, McCoy shot Cain. He admitted that he had committed the holdups in Columbus.
The young girl remembered seeing Bundy in the store that night, and claimed that she had not seen his picture in the newspaper prior to selecting him out of a lineup a few days before the trial. A reporter then testified that he had interviewed the girl and she had admitted to seeing his picture prior to the lineup identification. Upon being recalled to the stand, however, she once again denied seeing the picture.
The defense presented several witnesses who either saw Bundy alone in Canton that night or saw McCoy alone in Uniontown. Bundy testified that after visiting a few bars in Canton, McCoy had taken the car and left to see some friends in Akron. He maintained that he had never seen the gun he supposedly fired until he was threatened with it at his factory. The defense also presented the logical argument that if the men had really committed the murders together, Bundy would never have turned McCoy in for the See murders. Further, the defense contended that it would have been simple for Bundy to kill McCoy when he came to his house and threatened him.
While the defense alleged that during the holdups in Columbus, McCoy had said, “I’ve already killed four; one more won’t make any difference,” McCoy responded that he had actually said, “I’ve killed before.” Also, after arguing that McCoy implicated Bundy because Bundy had turned him in for murdering the Sees, McCoy stated that at the time he told police about the Uniontown robbery, he did not know that it was Bundy who had alerted them about his involvement in the See murders.
The trial judge instructed the jury not to convict Bundy based on the uncorroborated testimony of the alleged accomplice alone, but they returned a guilty verdict without recommendation of mercy. He was sentenced to die in the electric chair on November 8, 1957, less than five months later. Bundy appealed for a new trial after finding new witnesses who had seen him in Canton, but his conviction was affirmed by both the Ohio Appellate Court and the Ohio Supreme Court, citing that Bundy had received “substantial justice.”
On November 5, only three days before the execution, a woman who worked in the Amarillo, Texas bus terminal where the guns had been found came forward. She had read about the case in a magazine, and recognized McCoy’s picture as a man with whom she had a conversation. She said that McCoy had told her that he had committed four murders, and was about to commit a fifth “legal” murder. After challenging that no murder was legal, McCoy contended that he “would have the law do it for me.” An emergency stay of execution was ordered, and after a new hearing, Bundy was granted a second trial. On June 19, 1958, Bundy was acquitted and released from prison after serving one year.
One year later, McCoy was found guilty of the murder of Paul Cain and was sentenced to 25 years. He was never tried for the murders of Amodio, Lloyd See or Louise See. He was paroled in 1986.
- J.J. Marshall
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.